We all know that keeping active in all phases of life is extremely important. As we age, there are a number of factors that can affect our ability to exercise but it is important to focus on what we can do, rather than what we cannot.
Doing exercises that improve our flexibility, aerobic capacity, balance and strength are essential to maintain our overall fitness, improve our sense of well-being, enable us to carry out every day activities and, very importantly, to prevent falls.
So what do we need to do? Below are some suggestions for exercises that can be done every day to help us maintain these functions. Try and find a trigger to help remember to do some exercise – for example, while waiting for the kettle to boil.
1. Heel Raises
Facing and holding onto your kitchen worktop, rise up on the balls of your feet and lower down gently. Stand tall, knees relaxed, keeping your tummy muscles pulled in and your chin level. Do 10 repetitions. This exercise strengthens the ankles and calf muscles to improve balance and walking. Heel raises can also be done whilst sitting in a chair.
2. Arm Raises
Stand side on to your kitchen worktop, holding the worktop with one hand. Stand tall as above and, holding a can of soup or bottle of water in the other hand, raise the arm to shoulder level and down again. Keep a slight bend in the raised arm. Repeat 10 times on each side. This exercise strengthens the arms and shoulders to help with everyday tasks such as housework and gardening. This could also be done whilst seated.
3. Sit to Stand
Place a dining chair with its back against your kitchen worktop. Sit towards the front half of the chair, sit tall pulling in your tummy muscles, shoulders down and relaxed, draw feet back slightly so knees are over toes. Push down into the feet, lean forward and use momentum to push up from the chair to stand up fully. Sit back down gently. Repeat 10 times. This exercise strengthens the thigh muscles to help with climbing stairs and walking. A seated alternative would be to sit with your back against the back of a dining chair and raise alternate legs straight out in front of you – try to hold each leg for 10 seconds.
4. ‘Swimming’ forward and back
Stand or sit tall with feet hip width apart. Keeping your chin level and your tummy muscles pulled in, use alternate arms to perform a ‘front crawl’ swimming action keeping the elbow bent. Then take alternate hands up and back over the head as if brushing your hair. Aim to do 10 repetitions in each direction. Work within your own range and at your own pace. This improves shoulder mobility to aid in everyday living such as putting on your coat or reaching for a seat belt.
Please remember that it is never too late to start to exercise and that, to steal a phrase, ‘every little helps’!
If you have any concerns regarding your ability to exercise, please consult with your doctor or health professional before attempting these exercises.